Wild plants grow freely and abundantly. Place them in an environment with more nutrients and water and remove the weeds and they grow huge. School is like taking many different plants and growing them all in the same size pots with the same growing conditions in an effort to make each plant turn out like every other. Homeschooling is like the nurturing environment.
Homeschooling is the ideal environment for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. It is much easier to meet many of their unique needs in a small, controlled, intimate setting.
The homeschooling parent has many advantages.
One-on-one instruction and interaction
The homeschooling parent will have ample opportunities for one-on-one interaction with her child. This time makes it possible to develop an intimate knowledge of the child's academic strengths and weaknesses. This also gives the parent the flexibility to tailor each child's work to that child's particular needs.
This one-on-one time also has pay-offs for the family itself...strengthening bonds, developing intimacy, nurturing deep relationships.
Intimate knowledge of child's needs, preferences and personal style
The parent has a unique advantage in this area even when compared to the best of trained teachers. No one can possibly know a child like his parents. This intimate knowledge is the most solid foundation possible for guiding a child's education.
Deep investment in child's success
Parents have a deep investment in their child's success. In addition to this, parents have a broader sense of what a child's "success" means (way beyond test scores). The school system has many goals and definitions of success, some of which may actually conflict with the goals of helping your child to attain success for himself.
A parent's deep investment will lead him to search further for alternative strategies; he will experiment when current strategies are failing; and he will persevere through difficult times. Realistically, no school and no teacher will ever have that level of commitment to a child.
Ease of making accommodations in the physical environment
The parent has great flexibility in making changes to the physical environment. She can simply move to a carpeted room to work with her child, or turn the t.v. captioning on. No IEP meetings, monitoring, or budget battles are necessary.
While it does take some planning, the parent is able to customize the curriculum for her child. A parent has much greater flexibility when incorporating field trips, outings and hands-on work than is possible in a school setting. A customized curriculum might mean working on 4th grade math and 6th grade reading and college level science experiments, or it might mean significant use of hands-on activities. The parent has many choices that are simply not available within school structures.
Speed of instruction geared to student rather than the overall class
This advantage is inherent in the nature of homeschooling, but still worth pointing out. The child will never be left "behind" the other students, nor will he have to sit through boring reviews of material he understands well.
There are many time savings associated with homeschooling. No commute time transporting children to and from school. No time spent educating staff and teachers on the proper use and care of assistive equipment. No time spent on evening homework. No parent-teacher meetings. No time spent in anguish over the deficiencies of services provided.
A wide variety of social opportunities are open to homeschoolers. They have the chance, each day, to interact with people of all ages in a variety of settings. Homeschoolers, through local homeschool groups, also have the opportunity to develop long-lasting, intimate friendships.
No struggles with the school system
How much of an advantage this is depends on the family's level of involvement with the school system. If significant services are being provided, then, obviously, there will be much more interaction with the school system. For the most part, however, there will not be struggles over appropriate goals, issues over implementation of the IEP, monitoring to ensure services are being provided, etc.
Absolute choice of communication methods
The communication method that the family chooses to use will be the communication method used. No argument, no battle, no struggle.
Are there potential disadvantages to homeschooling, in general, and specifically for deaf/hoh children?
Burn out is a very real risk, particularly for the parent who bears the main responsibility for educating the child (children). It is crucial that this parent (usually the mother) schedule nurturing and renewing activities for herself, including down-time, EACH DAY. Don't be afraid to use the resources available in the community such as classes and activities for the kids. Develop, and rely on, a strong personal support network.
Adult social isolation
Spending the entire day with kids can lead to social isolation from other adults. It needn't. Nearly every town has a homeschooling support group. Schedule outings with friends. Make opportunities for social interactions with friends.
The parent bears the full responsibility for purchasing educational materials for the child. Depending on the path chosen, these costs can be considerable. Purchased curricula are generally rather expensive. Costs can be reduced through extensive use of the library and careful planning. The internet is a tool that should not be overlooked. There are many thousands of web sites offering worksheets, lesson plans and ideas for activities. Our family has adopted a plan of "strategic gift requests". We ask grandparents to give gifts that help meet some of our homeschooling needs---a membership to the Mineral of the Month club, for instance, or season tickets to the ballet.
Parent may have to carry cost of therapies
Services through the school system may not be available to the homeschooling parent, depending on the state and the local school district.
Possible legal consequences
School districts have harassed parents who choose to homeschool children with special needs. The risk is slim, but real. Parents living in areas where the school system is known to be hostile to homeschoolers would do well to prepare themselves. Membership in the Homeschool Legal Defense Association could be useful. They will provide legal defense for parents who encounter legal difficulties related to homeschooling.
Difficult without the full-time commitment of one parent
Homeschooling is difficult without the full-time commitment of one parent. There are families that homeschool in their after-work time, but this is rare, and probably not workable for a family dealing with special needs. Having one parent available full-time can lead to some significant changes in terms of finances and scheduling (parents working opposite shifts, for instance).
The Blame Game! Are School Problems the Kids' Fault?
An article analysing the impact of school culture on evaluations and special needs services.
Home Schooling and Students in Special Education: Sorting Out the Options for Parents
Discussion of a variety of options for families homeschooling children with special needs.
Homeschooling Kids with Disabilities
"Homeschooling Kids With Disabilities offers information and support to people who have chosen to homeschool their children with special educational needs."
Common Concerns About Homeschooling
Discussion of common concerns parents have about homeschooling.
Handling Friends & Family
Suggestions for answering questions, handling delicate situations and setting good boundaries with family and friends regarding homeschooling.
Special legal issues facing parents homeschooling children with disabilities.
It is the great triumph of compulsory government monopoly mass-schooling that among even the best of my fellow teachers, and among even the best of my students' parents, only a small number can imagine a different way to do things. - John Taylor Gatto
©2000-2013 Barbara L.M. Handley